Discover Your House History: “If These Walls Could Speak”

A “house history” can tell you more about the house you live in–or your ancestor’s home. Here’s how.

Are you curious about the history of the house you live in, or would you like to trace the history of a family property? The online article “How to Research Your Home’s Past by Charity Vogel has some great ideas. It’s not written for family historians, but I like some of the ideas it suggests:

1. Pull a full history of home ownership off your deed. (Historical deeds may not have these. But each deed does represent a link in the chain of property ownership: you should be able to move forward and backward in time in deed records until you’ve listed all owners.)

2. Use census records to learn more about other folks who lived in your home. Remember you’ll be able to see how many people lived there, and, for some census years, whether they owned or rented.

3. Watch for unusual patterns of ownership. For example, a deed showed sisters co-owning a home in the 1930s. Additional research showed that the sisters were nurses and ran the house as a community hospital. How cool is that to know about a house?

4. If it was a grand or unusual home, see whether the newspapers covered its construction. The author of the article found an 1898 article that detailed the entire five-month building process of her house!

Last year I shared an applicable research strategy in my blog post A Shocking Family Secret, and 3 Powerful Newspaper Research Tips about researching our ancestors and where they lived. By searching on their home address, and not including their name,  you can uncover “a kind of house history set of search results, revealing who lived there before, descriptions of the home and its contents and who moved in after your ancestors left. In my case, I located an article about the Cooke home (by the address) being up for sale several years before they owned it. That article included a fairly detailed description of the property. The final article found in the British newspapers was also found only by address (as the Cooke name wasn’t mentioned) and it detailed the contents of their household up for sale. The auction was held in preparation for their move to Canada.” (Click here to learn more about finding your family history in newspapers.)

While looking for more on this topic, I came across a great newspaper article about three researchers who specialize in house histories. They said that in addition to the personal satisfaction of knowing about a family home, “A bit of history and story makes it much easier to sell: it attracts a certain buyer.”

Here are a few more helpful resources, if you’d like to research your house history:

More House History Gems: Researching a Family Residence

Ancestral Landmark Discovery with Google Earth

How to Find a Family Address: 4 Steps to Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood?

Meet Me at Midwestern Roots 2016 in July

Join me at the Midwestern Roots 2016 conference in Indianapolis on July 15-16! Early-bird registration rate applies until June 30.

I look forward to speaking at Midwestern Roots 2016 in Indianapolis next month! Will you be there?

This conference has a unique Midwest vibe: welcoming and unpretentious but absolutely solid in the value and education it offers. Indianapolis is easy to get to from many U.S. cities. The conference venue itself, located on the outskirts of the city, is also easy to reach and has free parking.

“This year’s theme is #YourStory, and many sessions focus on the technologies that are changing the ways genealogists research and share their family history,” says the conference brochure.

I’ll be sharing a bit of my own story during an evening banquet: memories of the summer my family spent living like it was 1867 on the TV show Texas Ranch House. I’ll go behind-the-scenes of ‘not so reality’ reality TV, reveal what it was like to live the daily routine my Texan great great grandmother may have, and most importantly, share the ways in which the experience drew my family even closer together.

Join me for my classes:

  • How to Use Evernote for Genealogy
  • Google! Everything New that You Need to Know for Genealogy
  • How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case

Lots of fabulous presenters (including some who have been on the Genealogy Gems podcast) will be at Midwestern Roots. Curt Witcher is giving the Friday opening session (he joined us to dive deep into U.S. census records in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 10). CeCe Moore will talk about DNA, as she did on Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 178.

Here’s the scoop:

WHAT: Midwestern Roots 2016
WHEN: July 15-16, 2016
WHERE: Indianapolis Marriott East 7202 E. 21st St, Indianapolis, IN
REGISTER: Click hereEarly-bird registration discount ends June 30!

Pre-conference activities on July 14 include an all-day workshop for librarians and volunteers who work with genealogy sources as well as computer labs, writing workshops, preservation workshops and research opportunities for all attendees.

Bring my lectures to you

If you can’t join us in Indianapolis,   Genealogy Gems Premium website membership brings my most popular classes to you. Membership gives you a year’s worth of on-demand video classes and handouts. Among these classes are all the topics I’m covering at Midwestern Roots 2016 in even more depth including:

  • an entire Evernote for genealogy series,
  • three classes on my Google search methodology,
  • a “cold case” research class and a companion video on finding living relatives like a private eye.

Click here to see the full list of video classes, and consider giving yourself the best value in on-demand genealogy education around!

 

Wedding Bells are Ringing Across the U.S. with New and Updated Marriage Records

It’s not really wedding season, but we are hearing wedding bells across the United States! New and updated marriage records are dotting the country. Among other record finds this week, we share new sources from Latin America and Nicaragua.

dig these new record collections

United States – New York – Marriage Records

The not-for-profit organization called “Reclaim the Records” has just added the New York City Marriage Index to the public domain. We welcome this first searchable database of the 3,124,595 marriage licenses filed in New York City between 1950-1995. It’s free and searchable online at this time.

These records were finally won after a settlement was reached between the city of New York and Reclaim the Records. The organization won 110 reels of microfilm made from the masters in the City Clerk’s Office vault. This covers the handwritten marriage license index for 1930-1972. They also won a copy of a text-searchable database covering 1950-1995.

The search engine for these marriage records recognizes soundalike surnames, spelling variants, wildcards, common nicknames, year ranges, borough preferences, and more.

There are some records that are missing for Manhattan for 1967. Those Manhattan records do exist at the City Clerk’s Office on paper, however.

United States – Arkansas – Ohio – Tennessee – Washington – California – Marriage Records

FamilySearch joins the party by updating many of their U.S. marriage collections. Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, and California are among those updated over the past week.

The Arkansas Church Marriages, 1860-1976 collection is still rather small, but the newly updated records include items from Columbia and Woodruff counties.

Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013 collection is quite large and being added to regularly. Though not all have been indexed, you can browse through over 1.5 million marriage records by county. The collection consists of an index and images acquired from local courthouses. You may find:

  • Licenses
  • Certificates
  • Declarations
  • Affidavits
  • Loose documents
  • Abstracts
  • Licenses to perform marriages

The Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950 is an even larger collection of marriages with more than 3.3 million records. I was particularly excited to see the Claiborne County marriage records from as early as 1838 are available online. You can see an example of these handwritten records below.

marriage records example

Early Claiborne County, Tennessee Marriage Record found on FamilySearch

Next on our list of new and updated collections of marriage records are the Washington, County Marriages for 1855-2008. The index includes marriage records for Clallam, Lewis, Pacific, Snohomish, Thurston, and Wahkiakum counties. Images for both indexed and non-indexed counties are available to browse. Additional records from other counties will be added to the collection as they become available, so check back often.

And lastly, the California, County Marriages, 1850-1952 of over 2.4 million records is a must see. This collection includes several different types of documents such as licenses, certificates, registers, applications, affidavits, and stubs. Currently, the collection is 99% complete. It should be noted that not all indexed names will have a view-able record image due to contractual agreements, however most will.

Latin America – Books

Over 50,000 early Latin American books housed at the University of Texas are now available online in the public domain. That means that anyone can search the digitized pages of these wonderful historical books.

You will find these digitized volumes online at Google Books or HathiTrust. If you need to learn about how to effectively utilize Google Books, take a look at this helpful video from Lisa.

 

Nicaragua – Civil Registrations

FamilySearch offers the Nicaragua Civil Registration, 1809-2013 records online. 2.5 million records have been digitized and 1.1 million are indexed. These civil records include birth, marriages, and deaths from Nicaragua. The text of the records is written in Spanish.

Civil registration is mandatory in Nicaragua; therefore most of the population has been registered. The civil registration records are considered a reliable source for doing genealogical research in that locale.

Birth records usually contain the following information:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Child’s name and gender
  • Legitimacy
  • Parents’ names
  • Parents’ age, race, status and residence
  • Occupation of father and mother
  • Names of witnesses

Marriage records may contain the following information:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Groom’s name, origin and occupation
  • Bride’s name, age and residence
  • Bride’s origin and occupation
  • Names of witnesses

Death records contain the following information:

  • Name of deceased
  • Date, place and time of death
  • Cause of death
  • Legitimacy of deceased
  • Civil status and occupation of deceased
  • Name of spouse, if married
  • Parents’ names
  • Parents’ civil status and residence
  • Names of witnesses
  • Sometimes, burial information

More Gems on Marriage Records

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastTo learn even more about researching marriage records for family history, listen to Lisa’s free podcast episode titled Using Marriage Records in Family History. This episode is part of a series called Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. This specific podcast is all about marriage records and how to find and utilize them for your research.

If you have not yet taken the opportunity to engage with Genealogy Gems through our free podcast, please join us. You can find the free episodes listed here.

For further in-depth tips and techniques, subscribe as a Premium Member and enjoy the Premium Podcasts just for members! There is always something more to learn in the world of genealogy and we want to share it with you.

Annie Barrows Talks Family History and The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrow interviewIf you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you know how brilliantly co-author Annie Barrows stitched together letters, conversations and history in her fictional love story and account of the Nazi-occupied island of Guernsey during World War II. I love that book. So I was super excited to hear her talking on The Diane Rehm Show recently about her new book, The Truth According to Us: A Novel.

Of course, Annie read from the opening of her book, which made me put it at the top of my reading list. Then she talked about how history can be so different, depending on who is telling the story and from what perspective. I loved her take on small-town history and family history: how it’s remembered so deeply and passionately by its own, and often so mis-remembered or mis-represented by outsiders.

Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.”

Annie did talk about the Guernsey book, too. I hadn’t realized her aunt wrote the original manuscript, then became too ill to do the rewrites her publisher wanted. So Annie took on the task. As the author of the acclaimed Ivy and Bean children’s series, clearly she was up to the task. But she didn’t dream it would become an international best-seller!

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family HistoryThat’s my latest recommendation as the “curator” of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We recommend mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that resonate with people who love family history. Up soon on the Genealogy Gems Book Club schedule: our interview with author Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) (we’ll put the link up on the Book Club page when it’s ready). We also recently published this new companion list of how-to genealogy books we love.

 

Find Your Ancestors in Freedmen’s Bureau Records–or Help Others Do the Same

freedmens bureau announcementThe more I learn about U.S. history and records, the more I appreciate the challenges faced by those researching their African-American roots. In addition to the emotional toll of learning about their ancestors’ hardships, today’s researchers face the practical challenges of finding kin in records that mostly ignored their existence.

That’s why I’m super excited that the Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed. Scattered records are already transcribed (see the Freedmen’s Bureau Online). But there hasn’t been a comprehensive index of its 1.5 million state field agency documents. These include military pensions, marriage records, property claims, hospital records, trial summaries, labor contracts, school rolls, registers and censuses. Many of the four million African-Americans freed from slavery are mentioned, as are many white Southerners.

FamilySearch indexers began quietly indexing Freedmen’s Bureau records in 2009: the state of Virginia’s records are already searchable. Last week, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday (which celebrates emancipation), FamilySearch issued a call to action. They asked for help indexing the rest of the Freedmen’s Bureau within the year.

“Records, histories and stories will be available on DiscoverFreedmen.org,” says a release. “Additionally, the records will be showcased in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expected to open in late 2016.”

freedmens bureau infographicHere’s a quick history lesson: The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

The richest genealogical records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are in the field office records of each state. Click here to download a PDF from the National Archives about these original records.

Find more tips on finding African-American and other Southern U.S. ancestors here on the Genealogy Gems website. Recent posts include:

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